Visualizing Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean

Thomas Beasley and Suné Swart (Bucknell University)

In this project demo, we will share Visualizing Networks in the Ancient Mediterranean (VNAM), a web-based application for generating dynamic visualizations of all varieties of networks in the ancient world and exposing the primary evidence on which they are based.

VNAM makes it possible to see and explore, e.g., the trade networks to which Mycenae belonged in the late Bronze Age, or only those nodes of Athens’ imperial network for which epigraphical evidence exists. Furthermore, by adjusting a time slider, users can trace the development of any given network or networks diachronically. Users can also map literary and mythological journeys onto their real-world referents. Querying Apollo, for example, results in an overlay of places mentioned in the text of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo against a map of cities with temples to the god.

By uniting and making it possible to cross-reference literary and material evidence from the ancient world, VNAM serves as an interdisciplinary resource to students and professional classicists and archaeologists alike. And since its data is crowd-sourced, it is also a valuable pedagogical tool for, e.g., courses in classical mythology and ancient history. In my upcoming myth course, for example, students will map locations from literary texts and compare them with extant data about political, religious and economic networks in order to gain a fuller understanding of how myths functioned in their real-world contexts.